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Legend - Spirit

Legend - CD Review


CD Info:
Self -released
5 tracks
English lyrics
10 / 10


I’ve always wanted to work with a band from Wales. This one isn’t exactly from Wales, although at least one of the band members is. The rest are from many places. Originally, they’re from Runcorn, in Cheshire. You probably aren’t aware but Cheshire is where we got Alice in Wonderland. You know, as in the Cheshire Cat. The band has a rather long history, although they were dormant for a period of time. They formed in 1988 and cranked out some relatively interesting material. Then, they went down the Rabbit Hole for a while. But, they emerged a couple years ago and eventually went to work on the current release. The band seems to be focused around keyboard player Stephen Paine’s home in Wales, that Wales thing donate know. The rest of the band is from as far away as Australia. The original lead singer was classically trained and those releases were viewed as something of a Nightwish sound, rather than the Prog Metal the band was interested in. On this release, there is a completely new vocal, Ms. Beck Sian. However, there are a LOT of vocals here, Paine was interested in doing some solid choral work and that is a large part of the release.

It’s interesting to see how a sound like this evolves. With Legend, we’re talking about people who have been around for a while, these aren’t 20 year olds. Paine listed a number of sounds that influenced the band over the years, including one I hadn’t listened to for decades but remember as a personal favorite, Strawbs from the 70s. If you listen to that one you get some indication of where the symphonic Gothic genre originated. Lots of keyboard sounds, guitars and interesting vocals (male, they didn’t have a lot of femme metal in the 70s) and a dark story line. There weren’t a lot like that, although Badger and a few others who focused on keyboards certainly suggest a lineage exists back to that period of English symphonic metal. However, since Stephen prefers the term prog metal, we’ll stick with that here.

Its not unusual to have a couple traits that can be used to describe a sound. Of course, on this site, the term “femme metal” is the most common denominator. Beyond that we use terms like Gothic, Symphonic, Death Metal. . . all sorts of terms. Interestingly enough, several of those apply here, but there’s one more that must be applied: LONG. These aren’t short, catchy pop sounds by a long way. There’s a LOT of music, but only 5 actual titles. So, don’t plan to listen to this music during times when you can’t give it your full attention. The shortest track is nearly 7 minutes. The longest nearly 18 and a half. Now, to be clear, I’m a fan of long tracks, complex arrangements, multiple parts. Back in the day in the parks in the Deep South in the US we heard the Allman Brothers go on for a half hour on one track regularly. Same for Lynyrd Skynyrd and a number of other Southern Rockers. So, I have no objection to long tracks. However, with those good ol’ boys, most of the music was instrumental. Greg Allman got through the lyrics to Whippin’ Post in about 2 minutes, the rest was largely instrumental. That’s not the case here. I made a comment to Paine about the length of the lyrical comment, his response, “Though I am sure we will including large instrumental passages in future too. As a footnote Beck's comment when first presented with the lyrics for Spirit was 'Wow - this isn't a lyric sheet it is a BOOK!”.

Yea, there’s a lot of commentary here, and it’s presented with a degree of excellence through a lot of vehicles, both the vocal and the instrumental. But I rarely find music in this genre interesting unless those lyrics are saying something. And, in this case, they’re saying a lot. We all have our favorite lyrical topics, some still prefer the “I sure love ya” stuff from the 50s. I don’t. Others prefer the dark Gothic, the cold, remorseless sounds you get from Morton Veland and others. Still others prefer the folk direction. There’s lots to choose from. With this release, we go in one of my favorite directions. Again, Paine explained, “I like LEGEND's lyrics to work on multiple levels... the most basic being that the sound good poetically with the music. The most hidden level is that there is a Wiccan / Pagan influence which in most cases is only obvious to folks who are Wiccan. In between Spirit is about various life changing scenarios that we all face each in our own fashion and how those events change us and forge the spirit of who we are within.” Which certainly suggests a link to some of the material from Therion. And, there are times when that link isn’t only to the lyrical content. The first track, Leap of Faith begins with a sound that is about as Therion as you can get. The massed choral work, backed up by multiple instruments evolves into the strong Beck vocals that are a standard Therion vehicle. And, you certainly can’t be hurt sounding a little like Therion. Lyrically, the message does take us to some Pagan thinking:

Look out in wonder and see / What my heart desires
Have the courage to take on / The steps through the fire
Balance all I have known / And all I hold dear
Destiny’s within my reach Oh, so far, yet so near...

Bands like this often take their artwork seriously and, although I’ve never actually seen the physical product, there are hints of what you can expect on multiple on line locations. The artwork here comes from artist Josephine Wall and you get a few hints with the video of the track Crossing of the Way. Musically, this one is a little softer than some of the material presented here. Beck gets an opportunity to shine while the rest of the ban provides a solid background. And there’s nothing to complain about with this voice. Probably not as Tarjaish as the previous vocalist but that’s not to say it is’t far more than adequate. A solid range, a little accent, a truly professional delivery.

Wood for Trees is a little more prog metal. Or, in my world, a little more Emmerson, Lake and Palmer. . . you had to be there. But again, this one takes me back to that English sound that influenced me some time ago, but with more current instrumental capabilities and a bit more complex arrangements. . . and with a vocal that ELP never had available. And, what they do with those vocals requires technology ELP could never have dreamed of. Course, like most of us back then, they were probably too high to give it much thought. Again, the lyrics place the music into the perspective the band prefers:

Tree and root, turn me this way and that / Not yet free, seeking another path
If I’m lost, I can’t leave it all to chance / Must open my eyes
Cannot see the wood for the trees... / ... shift, changing my view again,
Lead me, on we go round again, / Not lost, just don’t know where I am
Have to find the way / Have to see the wood from the...
Have to find the way / Have to see the wood from the trees

Clearly, the finest track is the one the band spent the most time on. A Tangled Skein is the 18.5 minute masterpiece. I listened several times before checking to see how long it was, it was sufficiently interesting to not actually notice the length. You get a pretty complex production here, lots of variation in the vocals, segments that focus on keyboards, others that utilise more guitar and drum work. And, within the actual track, there are times when it appears a completely different track has begun, different pace, different tone, a completely new component. I hate to think how long it took to put this one together, or even write it. The lyrics read like The Lord of the Rings. . . without the Elfish vocabulary, of course. All in all, a solid release. A link to so much of what I enjoyed years ago, but presented with a thoroughly contemporary flair. And, if you take the time to listen carefully to the lyrics, you just might learn something. The Rabbit Hole has tossed us a little something to treasure. Alice’s loss is our gain.